MORE power, sharper handling but the same comfort for Aston’s super-GT range-topper.
WHAT IS IT?
The Vanquish is Aston Martin’s most expensive series-production car, a V12 GT based on the old DB9’s VH architecture but featuring all-carbonfibre bodywork, a slug of extra power and a revised chassis. The new Vanquish S turns all that up a notch, replacing the car that was first launched in 2012.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The 2012 Vanquish was a great GT, but it wasn’t quite as thrilling as it might have been. New bloods Andy Palmer (CEO, formerly of Nissan) and Matt Becker (chief engineer, formerly of Lotus) have tasked the 2017 Vanquish S with retaining all its predecessor’s GT refinement while taking excitement to another level. We’ve got a day at the wheel to see if they’ve succeeded.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
It’s mission accomplished for Vanquish S. It’s just as satisfying on a long-distance trek as it’s always been, but there’s much more attitude when you give it some stick: more performance, more noise, more precision too.
PLUS: Noise, design, ride quality, handling performance
MINUS: DB11 newer, cheaper, equally powerful, torqueier; rock-hard seats
THE WHEELS REVIEW
NO WONDER the Aston Martin Vanquish felt insecure. Based on the DB9, last year the carbonfibre-bodied super-GT watched from the sidelines as Aston’s DB9 replacement, the cheaper, more powerful and similar-of-concept DB11, stole headlines. The Vanquish had to pick up the slack, especially with new boss Andy Palmer and chief engineer Matt Becker arriving in town.
The Vanquish was a very good car, refined, comfortable and great to drive too, but it didn’t leave you breathless on a back-road fang. Becker tried to retain all the good GT stuff while adding more driver engagement.
An induction system with bigger lungs helps pump the V12’s power from 424kW to 441kW, and while peak torque remains unaltered at 630Nm, there’s a more generous wodge of it buttered through the mid-range. A zero-backlash coupling, borrowed from DB11, reduces slack in the driveline too, allowing the eight-speed auto to be recalibrated for more incisive feeling – if not actually /faster/ – shifts.
New quad exhaust outlets means the V12 sounds even more thunderous when it fires, and although the sub-3000rpm performance might have you craving the DB11’s subterranean turbo torque, its visceral response to throttle inputs and the way it climaxes at a now-350rpm-higher 7000rpm reminds you why good ol’ natural aspiration is the purists’ choice. The gearbox’s extra shot of espresso underlines that sense of connection, and even calling for fourth from eighth via the paddleshifters doesn’t have it calling strike action at the unreasonableness of it all; you get the gear and get it quickly.
The chassis mods are if anything more vital in the transformation from Vanquish to S. Becker describes wanting to move the yaw centre forwards, for a more compact, agile feel with less understeer. Reducing lift over the front axle – the new front splitter cuts it 66kg to 18kg – also helps.
Improved body control is immediately noticeable, the Vanquish S blending flat, all-of-a-piece composure with an elasticity between you and the road. Flick the steering left and right and you’ll feel the chassis’ sharper reflexes, but also a subtle change to the hydraulically assisted steering –and that’s despite hardware, tuning and tyres carrying over. Though still light and user-friendly, the steering is meatier off-centre and tingles with extra feedback too, the by-products of a slightly stiffer chassis.
No doubt about it, the Vanquish S is an all-round better car, retaining all the suppleness and usability of its predecessor, while injecting it with a dose more attitude. But the cheaper, newer DB11 continues to cast a shadow, so too the 2018 Vanquish replacement it’ll spawn.
The Ferrari F12 is more thrilling still, but perhaps the Vanquish S’s biggest rival comes from within: the DB11 is built on an all-new platform with a fresher design, better interior – including the switch to much-improved Mercedes infotainment, and much more comfortable seats –plus a twin-turbocharged V12 with the same power and even more torque. That it also costs almost a quarter less and lays foundations for a Vanquish replacement in 2018 provides two strong reasons not to buy the extremely impressive Vanquish S.
Model: Aston Martin Vanquish S
Engine: 5935cccc V12, dohc, 48v
Max power: 441kW @ 7000rpm
Max torque: 630Nm @ 5500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 3.5 sec
Economy: 13.1L/100km (combined)
On sale: 2017